Promos, not valid news, tainted stations' interruptions of games

MEDIA WATCH

March 24, 2000|By Milton Kent

The question of what and how much to give people when you can only give them one thing at a time vexes television programmers virtually every time a big news story occurs.

The balancing act for television executives is how to give viewers relevant information they want and need while not offending those who tune in for shows of interest -- a difficult task, to be certain.

The most recent example of that high-wire walk was the Joseph Palczynski saga, and let's hope local television officials learn to do a better job of walking the tightrope.

A couple of points need to be made right off the top.

First, a television station's first responsibility, above and beyond airing this week's "ER" or even a game in the Final Four, is keepingviewers informed.

And even the most hard-core college basketball fan would acknowledge that getting legitimate information to the public about a situation in which four people's lives hung in the balance took precedence over a mere game.

The problem, as tends to be the case more often than not in television news, was that far too often last weekend, legitimate information wasn't what was being provided during news breaks and crawls across the bottom of the screen.

Instead, what sports viewers got were self-serving reminders to keep their sets tuned to the station that would give "the most accurate, updated" information on the story, or rehashes, or even days-old taped interviews, as opposed to current, factual material.

The forthcoming digital age will give viewers even more choices for programming and where to get information. Programmers would do well to remember that when they decide whether to inform or to promote.

Choosing words carefully

Deadline pressures and the glare of live television can make even the steadiest performers wilt on occasion.

That said, let's just say that veteran Channel 13 reporter Richard Sher slipped badly Friday night when, during a recap of tournament scores, he noted that Duke "killed" Lamar.

Given the gravity of the Palczynski situation -- for which Channel 13 dropped out of coverage of that very game -- Sher's words were most unfortunately chosen.

Gridiron musical chairs

Starting in 2001, ABC will add the Big East football league to its collection of conferences, which includes the Big Ten, Pac-10, Big 12, Atlantic Coast and Mountain West. The network also will show a Big East game before the Big 12 and SEC championship games.

The new deal will give the Big East more airings in the 3: 30 p.m. telecast window than it would have received at CBS, where a spokeswoman said the network will concentrate more fully on its SEC regular-season package.

ESPN and ESPN2 will carry at least five Big East games as a part of their renewed deal. Meanwhile, ABC and ESPN have extended their football and basketball deals with the Big 12.

More trash sports

Emboldened by the success of last year's made-for-TV match between Tiger Woods and David Duval, ABC will throw together another prime-time match Aug. 28 with Woods meeting Sergio Garcia at the Bighorn Golf Club in Indio, Calif.

Last summer's match posted a 6.9 rating, the second highest for a single golf show of the year, proving that people will watch just about anything.

The Woods-Garcia "competition" will air the Monday night before the football season commences, and the winner will get $1.1 million, which must now be the official going price for selling out your sport for a quick paycheck.

Woods, by the way, is expected to be one of the leaders in this weekend's Players Championship. USA will have coverage at noon today, and NBC (Channel 11) will air third-round coverage at 2 p.m. tomorrow and the final round at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Around the dial

CBS has added former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins to its men's NCAA basketball tournament studio operation for this weekend's regional semifinals and finals. In addition, Al McGuire, who retired from commentary just before the tournament, will sit with Dick Enberg to discuss his careers in coaching and broadcasting during tomorrow's lead-in show to the Midwest and West regional finals (Channel 13, noon).

The women's tournament airs tomorrow and Monday on ESPN2 and ESPN, with games stacked up like planes over O'Hare International Airport. The two outlets will split eight regional semifinals tomorrow, starting at 11: 30 a.m. on ESPN2, as well as Monday's regional finals, with the breakdown to be determined tomorrow.

Channel 2 continues its lacrosse package with coverage at 1 p.m. tomorrow of the Penn State-UMBC game. Of course, that means that soccer fans will miss the big D.C. United-Los Angeles Galaxy contest between the teams that met for last year's MLS Cup, but that's what a good antenna is for, because the match will air at 1 p.m. in Washington on Channel 7.

At 1 p.m. tomorrow, Home Team Sports will carry the Orioles-Dodgers exhibition, and then, at 6 p.m. Monday, the premiere of a new sports-oriented game show, "Sports Geniuses," a Fox Sports Net creation.

And, speaking of quirky, ESPN Classic, where great games live on in perpetuity, will air its first "live" event at 11 a.m. Sunday, when it carries the implosion of the Kingdome with Seattle native Kenny Mayne as host. The show will follow a marathon of Kingdome-related programming, starting at 8 p.m. tomorrow.

(Just a thought: If ESPN Classic can devote 15 hours to a sterile dump like the Kingdome, imagine the programming schedule they have lined up for the destruction of a palace like Memorial Stadium. They are planning something like that, aren't they?)

Finally, an injury shout-out to NBC's Tom Hammond, who will miss this week's NBA assignment because he broke his nose in a pick-up basketball game. (Who was he playing with, Karl Malone?)

At any rate, NBC (Channel 11) will send along a split NBA doubleheader Sunday, with Indiana playing host to Philadelphia after "NBA Showtime" at noon, then the Lakers as host to Sacramento after golf.

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